Thursday, 11 December 2008

Totally optional prompts: Persona poem

Superman for a day

I soared like a bottle rocket
and snapped gravity like a rusty anchor.
I skimmed seas in single breaths
and slept with the swallows.
I drank tears from the sky
and chased sunsets with the geese.
I rode currents with the pigeons
and split them like river rocks.
I backstroked along the heavens
and caught sparks with the shooting stars.
Then I landed with the seagulls,
tracing trails in the soft sand.
That was fun.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Musing Monday Prompt Dec 8

How long do you wait after finishing a book before you pick/start another one? How many books do you have planned ahead or do you pick up random books from your tbr pile (if you have one)? Do you review right away or keep reading and come back to it later?

I have a very systematic way of choosing novels, almost OCD to be perfectly honest. I bought a book entitled 'The Good Reading Guide' and I follow it religiously. I do have particular genres that I like, but I follow the creed that in order for my writing to excel, I must read as many different books as I can. Its extremely rewarding to read in this fashion since I always end up finding books that I wouldn't normally bother touching and being quite surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Its not all good though, some books are better than others. Captain Corelli's Mandolin was at times beautiful, funny, moving and tedious. I am trying to navigate myself through the 'The Big Read' top 100, but my local library is not that extensive. I have since discovered classics online though, which has saved me a lot of trouble.
I tend to pick up books straight after finishing the previous one, but it takes a while to read them and I have this ridiculous need to find out about new concepts and vocabulary as soon as I discover them, which requires me to have ready access to a dictionary and encylopedia. I hate not knowing about what I am reading, and not finding out would rob me of one of reading's greatest attributes. They are explorations from the comfort of my armchair. I have a massive list of books that I want to read, and I find it extremely distressing that the list will probably exceed my lifespan. As for reviewing, that's something I have yet to take up, but I intend to in earnest. So much to read and so little time.

Writer's Digest prompt

Writer's Digest prompt: A man buys a parrot, and is horrified when he discovers the only thing it can say is, "If you ever tell anyone what you saw, I’ll kill you."

Parrot Talk (first part)

Mike hated animals; he thought they were noisy, unclean, demanding, expensive and overall just downright irritating. On the other hand, he was a sucker for his nine year old son, who had been insisting for nigh on three months for one African Gray parrot. Mike was understandably reticent, given that the parrot automatically ticked the 'noisy' box. He could imagine its squawking come in the dead of night, while he was desperate for a good night's sleep before the big conference at which he was chair. It was only a matter of time though, and before the fourth month of his son's anxious wait had begun, he walked into a local pet store and bought one African Gray parrot for a sum that also automatically ticked the 'expensive' box. Two boxes ticked, and the African Gray parrot had only been in his possession for about eight seconds. Mike had come to the decision that his son Tom would be paying through the nose for this. The simple two bedroom house in the nice sequestered and leafy suburb was going to be Tom's penance.
It was three days before Mike unchecked the 'noisy' box, and he was surprised that he considered this regrettable. The bird was so quiet he actually thought it was dead, but the bird nonetheless possessed that lifelike quality of appetite and therefore he considered it only a matter of time before the bird opened his mouth to fill the air with something that could be perceived as entertaining but was still utterly meaningless. The days passed, and it was not until the untimely hour of around two in the morning, when Mike was parched and had gone through to the bathroom for a glass of water, that the unmistakable vocal sounds of a parrot were being utilised. He went downstairs and studied the parrot in the glare of moonlight that was passing through his window. This study was into its fourth minute before the bird opened its mouth. The voice was soft but firm, almost rasping - 'If you ever tell anyone what you saw, I'll kill you'. The regrettable long bout of silence that had preceded this single sentence no longer seemed regrettable.
This regrettable sentence became steadily more regrettable, as the sentence was only ever heard at around two in the morning, once every six minutes for a total of twenty four minutes, on a Wednesday. Five weeks later, when his son had inevitably become tired of the animal (Mike had not told him about the early morning sojourns) and Mike's edginess at this undoubtedly strange occurence had reached breaking point, the daily paper that had become his breakfast ritual opened up its heart via page twenty-seven and told him something that was initially interesting but then proceeded to become undoubtedly disconcerting. 'Still no suspects in nighttime murder', which was not particularly noteworthy of itself, but a close analysis of the text initiated a steady rise of the eyebrows and a marked paling of the face. The article detailed the murder of a local, fifty-two-year old man who had been strapped to a chair, doused in petrol and set alight. This was not especially intriguing in any intimate sense, but the fact that the man was a reknowned expert on African Gray parrots and that he had been murdered at around two in the morning on a Wednesday was understandably alarming. The steady and grounded mental faculties for which he was known soon wrested the control that they had relinquished however, and Mike deemed the link as preposterous and not something to be pursued.
Time wore on, the parrot continued its nightly awakenings, and Mike's growing uneasiness with this predicament gradually began to manifest itself in his work and in his relationship with his son. This was unacceptable, and since the boy had not fostered any affection for the parrot, Mike decided to take the parrot to a home. The parrot was promptly delivered, and the issue was considered closed. The following Wednesday night, however, Mike awoke to the same liturgy. He crept edgily down the stairs, and in the full glare of the moonlight, the very same parrot in the very same cage eyed him with sinister unblinking eyes that were black as night. Four minutes in, the parrot resumed its mutterings and continued to do so twice more for what was undoubtedly a precise twenty four minute period. Mike, not at all a superstitious fellow, was nonetheless grounded and practical enough to register that this was indeed happening and that he was not on the verge of insanity. He spent an hour that night creating some kind of believable story for which this strange return could be explained, worked through its loopholes and gave this finely-tuned fiction to his son the following morning. Mike hated lying to his son, but considered it a kind lie.
Afterwards, he journeyed to the local library and began to dig up anything he could on the recently deceased parrot enthusiast. The man was named Herbert Fellows; somewhat eccentric and an only son, but widely respected. Mike blinked, and reread a single sentence a second time - 'Grandson of Mr Samuel Fellows'. The fact that Herbert's grandfather, Mr Samuel Fellows, was also Mike's great-grandfaher, did not seem entirely coincidental in the current circumstances. To pursue this further, he visited the pet store where he bought the parrot and enquired as to its origins.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Scribble Soup Prompt #37: Santa's new jingle

No good at jingles, but I wrote this:

Promise me this, Santa

I'm giving back your sleepless nights,
the early bedtimes and secret sights;
I'm giving back your tailored tree,
the giftbox mountains and unwrapped glee.
I'm giving back your grateful lies,
the fry-ups and soft mince pies;
I'm giving back your family rounds,
the cheap cards and excess pounds.
I'm giving back your turkey dinner,
the eggnog and the cracker winner;
I'm giving back your evening flick,
the cava and the candle wick.
I'm giving back your little unit,
the easy life and simple circuit;
I'm giving back your careless antic,
and one whole day of innocent magic.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Winter Tale

The wind funneled and thrusted like the deft blows of a fencer, while the foaming sea collapsed upon the beach with ruinous intent. We were both barefoot though, our cold feet barely making imprints in the hard packed sand. It was close to midnight, and one might think that we were being a little reckless wandering along the beach with no help at hand. The tide was out though, and our feet only ever felt the wet cold touch of seaweed when they weren't picking up sand grains.
It was different at night. The hard cold nature of cliff and ocean made us feel like primitive newborns, and the absence of people which seemed to lessen its scale during the day, only made it more powerful and deadly. The two of us were young though, romantic and thrill-seeking. We were alone as well - solitary, fragile creatures caught in the midst of primal natural forces and with a universe about us. I looked up, at a cavern of diamonds, and my humble limited eyesight suddenly danced to the edge of eternity and back again, towards my tiny shivering soulmate whose cheeks were red beneath her woolen hat. It seemed appropriate, to be alone with her and seek faith in a universe who had seen many things come and go.
I clutched her hands and blew on them, and asked her which star she would like. She smiled, and then a soft white flake landed on her ring finger.


I do not really subscribe to any cultural traditions, apart from the obvious traditions of a man brought up in a country whose religious fealty is Church of England. I am not religious, but I can understand the necessity of magic to a child and Christmas seems bound up with my parents finding twenty four hours where they hide their own distance from one another and from me and my siblings. The magic of still believing in Santa, and staying up until the early hours and peeking through the curtains, hoping against hope that the golden trail of reindeer is scratched across the night sky. The product of a Coca-Cola education. They were good days - days when the world seems quite small and relatively painless, and the news seems so savage as to be totally unbelievable.

Christmas with my parents is not something I wish to uphold. The last one was a drag - spending three hours on the floor of my grandparents bungalow for want of any chairs, and being forced to watch consecutive soap operas. I wanted some interrelation - chatting, a card game - even charades - some means by which a disconnected family could rediscover what family was. My wife is an American, and they are a different breed. I remember taking my end of year University exam, and then talking to her aunt and uncle about it. They were the first ones to actually phone up and ask me about it. My own family didn't do that until three days afterwards, and that's only because I popped in and told them.

Me and my wife recently indoctrinated our friends into Thanksgiving. The conversation was free flowing and the food, despite some initial hesitation (candied yams??? Are you serious???), was well received. The pumpkin pie went down a treat. We did not say grace, perhaps because it was the customary role of my wife's father and he has since passed away. Perhaps the pain is too near for her, but I think primarily we engaged with this holiday because it brought a little of America into my wife's life, and it was among friends who understood that and wished to make it seem as homely as it could be. I think that will be a tradition for us - for me because it represents something I haven't felt since I was a child, for my wife because it represents a country and a family which she thought she might lose and for our unborn children as well, because it will show them what a family could be.